Weekly Thing 263 / Copilot, Del.icio.us, Pancake
Welcome to the Weekly Thing by Jamie Thingelstad! Did you know that 263 is the smallest prime number with a digit sum of 11? Get ready for an exciting read! — ChatGPT
Hello there! 👋
I've got an exciting new thing to share this week, the Weekly Thing Forum! What's that you say? The Forum is a way to further explore topics from this email and learn from others. There is a more detailed introduction in the Journal section. The Forum is hosted on Ponder from Good Enough, requires registration (not public), and respects your privacy. Check it out!😎
One of my core beliefs is that the best way to understand new technology is to directly engage with it, play around, and learn by doing. I've been doing that with AI and I decided I’m going to let ChatGPT introduce the Weekly Thing with a sentence or two in the beginning. 🧠
I've completed all the things on my list for my automation overhaul. I even wrote a fairly detailed blog post about how it all works that you can find below. 🛠️
Enjoy this weeks links! 👍
The residents of Burano paint their house in coordinated, vibrant colors. Everywhere you look it is incredible.
Jul 26, 2023
I was a user of Del.icio.us and I really liked it. It was this whole new idea, and being someone that likes to collect and curate links, it vibed with me really strongly. I used it for years and I’m sure I had a couple thousand links stored. The failures of Del.icio.us are what allowed for Pinboard to get launched. Pinboard was fast, and even better reliable. I imported my Del.icio.us links to Pinboard and never looked back. Today I have 14,159 links in Pinboard, including those ones I imported from Del.icio.us.
Schachter wonders what could have become of the site. I doubt it could have been a robust social platform, and if it was it would be most like Pinterest. Possible, but I think it was also too early when Web 2.0 was the shiny buzz word.
Not mentioned in this article is the fact that after Yahoo! did everything it could to ruin Del.icio.us, Pinboard bought it. Pinboard is famously known as a solopreneur product, with just Maciej Cegłowski running it by himself for the last 14 years. Simple, small-business with a paying customer base. No ads or other silly stuff.
the rollout of Copilot is starting across Microsofts various platforms.
Copilot will begin to roll out in its early form as part of our free update to Windows 11, starting Sept. 26 — and across Bing, Edge, and Microsoft 365 Copilot this fall. We’re also announcing some exciting new experiences and devices to help you be more productive, spark your creativity, and to meet the everyday needs of people and businesses.
I’m impressed with how fast they have mobilized this in so many parts of their software and services.
Jenson presents a thoughtful assessment of how bad detailed editing of text is on mobile devices, along with a recommended improvement. I like this article cause it hits on something we all struggle with but have sort of accepted, to his point of it being invisible. At one point iOS offered a 2-finger drag on the keyboard to emulate arrow keys. That isn't there anymore but I really miss it. Personally, I almost never attempt to do this kind of detailed text editing on my mobile device because it is maddening.
Scaling tech to extreme scales is usually an interesting story. The levels that PayPal has scaled Kafka are impressive!
Today, our Kafka fleet consists of over 1,500 brokers that host over 20,000 topics and close to 2,000 Mirror Maker nodes which are used to mirror the data among the clusters, offering 99.99% availability for our Kafka clusters. During the 2022 Retail Friday, Kafka traffic volume peaked at about 1.3 trillion messages per day! At present, we have 85+ Kafka clusters, and every holiday season we flex up our Kafka infrastructure to handle the traffic surge. The Kafka platform continues to seamlessly scale to support this traffic growth without any impact to our business.
Detailed article describing how they have achieved this level of scale and resiliency, including their own custom libraries they built to interface with Kafka.
This is the kind of tool that one could easily breeze right by and think "Sure, sort of interesting" and give a 🤷♀️. However, there are many, many use cases where English text is run through systems to appear somewhere.
Vale is an open-source, command-line tool that brings your editorial style guide to life.
My blog has over 10,000 files, each with a different blog post. I'd love to get spelling and grammar checks, but doing that with thousands of files isn't simple. Vale is perfect for that. Or, you have text that you need to insert into the software you are buidling and could insert Vale into the commit pipeline to make sure that it doesn't have errors. I need to set aside some time to play with this. It is also extensible so an organization can extend it with their own style guidelines.
There are two software categories today that seem to be fighting for dominance as the controller of this: your home and your body. Fitness apps all want to track everything. And every app that does anything with a smart device in your home seems to want to claim home turf to all things in your home. As they attempt to do that, the user experience suffers and they fill the app with garbage.
If you want to get the full rundown on all the new things in macOS Sonoma, this is the review for you. There are twelve pages covering every nook and cranny of the operating system. If you want even more, the macOS 14 Sonoma: The Ars Technica review is equally long and detailed.
Not only do credit card companies create a private tax on the entire economy, they also generate a mountain of surveillance and sell that on various exchanges. When you step back it seems wild the role that these organizations have in the economy. We need some kind of data protection laws in the US. And honestly maybe we need to stop giving these companies our transactions. Sadly, the alternative is what? 🤷♂️
Francl shares his original and then the final abstract for a talk he was preparing after working with ChatGPT. What I like about this article is how he engaged with it to collaborate, and get to a final version that was really good. I think this is a great example of how ChatGPT can help you as a collaborator today.
People & Blogs is a wonderful project by Manuel Moreale, highlighting "wonderful human beings and their blogs". Manuel's goal is to promote a healthier way to inhabit the web. I love blogging, and I love how People & Blogs shines a spotlight on it. I’m a supporter of the project via Ko-Fi. I'd recommend subscribing to get new issues each week!
Sep 22, 2023 at 6:08 PM
I’ve been sending the Weekly Thing for six years. Every week I will get a few replies from people about a specific article, topic, or comment from that week. Getting those replies is great, and sometimes I’ll get multiple replies on the same thing and think it would be interesting to extend this conversation. I’m putting the Weekly Thing Forum out there for just that reason, to create a broader dialog and to continue to learn together.
Plus I hope it is just fun, in an old-school Internet sort of way.
Before the Forum I have tried some very limited experiments to create some further dialog. I tried chat platforms like Telegram, Signal, SimpleX, and Wavelength Messenger. Only Telegram and Wavelength got more than a handful of people, and it just didn't fit well. Chat platforms are very high frequency and that didn't match well with the Weekly Thing. They don’t suit themselves to well thought out dialogue.
Then I got an email from a Weekly Thing reader, Barry Hess. Barry is one of the principles behind Good Enough where he and some other like minded technologists are passionate about creating principled products. Ponder is one of them. Barry reached out to see if I might want to use Ponder for the Weekly Thing. 🤔
The fun thing is that my friend Garrick Van Buren had already introduced me to Ponder via a group he had created. So I was familiar and thought it was a great, simple, clean and easy-to-use place to host a Forum. No privacy concerns. No algorithms. Just a place to connect with people in a thoughtful and meaningful way.
Over the summer I mulled this over and decided to give it a go!
So here we are, the Weekly Thing Forum!
I don’t know exactly where this will go. I think it would be great to continue dialog about articles that are in the Weekly Thing. It would be fun to do “Ask Me Anything” kind of things. It would be super to bring in additional perspectives. Overall, I'm hoping to increase connection and shared learning.
Thanks for checking it out! Thanks for reading the Weekly Thing! And thanks for being great!
Join the Weekly Thing Forum!
This messages is also posted in the forum.
Sep 23, 2023 at 5:35 PM
In the Journal section of the Weekly Thing I include any blog posts that I’ve made for that week. To keep things easy, I’ve always just linked to the same image files that are used on my blog. That has never been ideal since those images are much larger than what you would ideally include in an email.
I decided to try and solve this problem in Shortcuts and the amazing S3 Files. The basic approach I take to getting blog posts into the Weekly Thing is:
- Retrieve the RSS feed for www.thingelstad.com
- Find items in feed that are within the time period of this issue
- Convert each post to markdown and do some post processing to make it work in the newsletter better
To do this I would add another step after 3 to detect my own images in the posts, and do the following:
- Detect any URL’s that are uploads into my blog, and make sure to not grab any others.
- Retrieve the image file at that URL
- Resize it to 1,200 pixels on the “long edge”
- Add to S3 bucket for files.thingelstad.com in the right directory for this issue
- Replace the original image URL with the new URL
It wasn’t too hard to make all this work. After tweaking the regular expressions, and making sure that the replacement worked right it was working great.
Here is a snippet from my logs.
- Add https://www.thingelstad.com/2023/09/20/teamsps-kubb-tournament.html from Sep 20, 2023 at 9:30 PM. (Count 1)
- Detected https://www.thingelstad.com/uploads/2023/img-7928.jpeg.
- Resized img-7928.jpeg (1.9 MB to 518 KB)
- Replacing https://www.thingelstad.com/uploads/2023/img-7928.jpeg with https://files.thingelstad.com/weekly-thing/262/journal/img-7928.jpeg.
- Detected https://www.thingelstad.com/uploads/2023/6334e1ac32.jpg.
- Resized 6334e1ac32.jpg (2.3 MB to 597 KB)
- Replacing https://www.thingelstad.com/uploads/2023/6334e1ac32.jpg with https://files.thingelstad.com/weekly-thing/262/journal/6334e1ac32.jpg.
- Detected https://www.thingelstad.com/uploads/2023/img-7928.jpeg.
- Add https://www.thingelstad.com/2023/09/20/i-love-that.html from Sep 20, 2023 at 8:09 PM. (Count 2)
- Detected https://www.thingelstad.com/uploads/2023/198c1c9be7.jpg.
- Resized 198c1c9be7.jpg (227 KB to 219 KB)
- Replacing https://www.thingelstad.com/uploads/2023/198c1c9be7.jpg with https://files.thingelstad.com/weekly-thing/262/journal/198c1c9be7.jpg.
- Detected https://www.thingelstad.com/uploads/2023/0b1754ade2.jpg.
- Resized 0b1754ade2.jpg (297 KB to 276 KB)
- Replacing https://www.thingelstad.com/uploads/2023/0b1754ade2.jpg with https://files.thingelstad.com/weekly-thing/262/journal/0b1754ade2.jpg.
- Detected https://www.thingelstad.com/uploads/2023/198c1c9be7.jpg.
When I ran this to the Journal images in Weekly Thing 262 it was able to resize 28 images from an original size of 43 MB to 12 MB, saving 21 MB of download data!
This is a big win in two ways. First, when you open the Weekly Thing from 263 on your device will download way less data and need to use way less memory. Also, some email services apparently dislike it if emails reference images that are longer than 1,200 pixels on the longest side. Hopefully this little efficiency will also get finicky mail servers to be nicer to my emails.
This was only possible with the revamp I’ve been doing to my automation, and the ability to add this step in was a great result of those changes.
Sep 24, 2023 at 9:03 AM
One of the common questions I'm asked is how I create the Weekly Thing. There are two flavors of this question. One is about finding content and writing, and the other is about the technical act of producing each issue. This article is an attempt to answer the second question about producing each issue.
I just finished a big revamp of the automation that I use to build each issue of the Weekly Thing so it feels like a good time to document and share how it works. I'm very happy with how this is working now, and have used automation to achieve two goals.
- Remove as much of the fiddly bits around formatting and connecting systems as possible, leaving my time for the creative part of writing and sharing.
- Allow some sections to be authored ahead of time, so I can create in small chunks of time.
The revamp had some additional goals, or things to fix that I badly needed to address.
- It should run on any platform. Some of my steps required software that only worked on iOS so I oddly couldn’t run my automation on my Mac.
- No Python scripts, all native Shortcuts. I had some steps that involved Python and that was harder to maintain and change.
- Durability, better error handling, and logging. When my automation didn't work it was hard to know why. Not good when your on deadline!
- Automation for all sections. For 6 years the photo section has never been supported with automation.
I'm happy to report that my new automation does all of the above, and even pulls in an additional big feature of reducing image sizes.
Let’s start with an overall view of the whole process. This diagram shows how the various parts are connected. Green boxes are Shortcuts, and grey boxes are Apps or Services. The people represent where I author and interact to create content. This isn’t 100% of everything, but covers the important parts.
The easiest way to think of this is that the Build Issue shortcut has a list of other Shortcuts. It iterates through that list calling each shortcut. Those shortcuts in turn return a block of Markdown text. Once all shortcuts have been called, they are then combined into one Markdown block for final review and editing.
This approach is fundamentally the same as I have used since 2017. The biggest change since then is I call many more Shortcuts, and back then I pulled HTML since MailChimp required that.
The huge change that I’ve been making is that each section Shortcut is much more durable, and uses Data Jar to cache and manage data.
Core technologies that are used for this include.
- Shortcuts: This is the heart of the solution and where everything starts.
- Drafts: I use Drafts for a ton of things, including writing this blog post. Drafts has incredible support for Shortcuts and automation. Any sections of the Weekly Thing that are just writing I do in Drafts. These are then put into Workspaces in Drafts to interact with Shortcuts. For example, the Currently section is a Workspace in Drafts that is pulled in via a Shortcut.
- Data Jar: This is like a simple database that allows me to cache and store content for each Shortcut.
- S3 App: Great app that was a huge unlock for me since it allowed me to finally automate the Photo section, and in general makes it super simple to get files on the web from Shortcuts.
- Pinboard API: All the links in Featured, Notable, and Briefly come from Pinboard, and I author the blurbs about them in Pinboard as well. They end up in the respective section because I add a “_featured” or “_briefly” tag to them. If no tag, they are in Notable. The reason this works well is that I can author in Markdown in Pinboard, even though Pinboard has no idea what Markdown is.
- thinglestad.com RSS Feed: RSS is how I pull my blog posts into the Journal section. This is a little weird since I author my blog in Markdown, and then pull it via RSS in HTML, and then convert the HTML back to Markdown. That process seems weird but I will likely keep it since the conversion does a couple of nice things to insure the Markdown is well formatted.
Shortcuts is where the majority of the work for this occurs and here is my current set.
The “Build Issue” Shortcut is the one that collects markdown from all the sections and assembles it. You will see a lot of “Section:Name” shortcuts, those are the ones that are responsible for returning a section. Mostly the names make sense for a number of other utility shortcuts.
The other very important component is Data Jar, which you can think of like a database or cache for Shortcuts. Data Jar is a game changer for Shortcuts as it allows you to share and keep state between various Shortcuts. Here is what the Data Jar dictionary for issue 262 looks like.
As much as possible the section Shortcuts use Data Jar to store anything they need. I’ll use a simple example with Section:Fortune. Each issue of the Weekly Thing has a Fortune that I set. The basic flow is:
- See if “Weekly Thing.«Current Issue».Fortune” exists in Data Jar, if it does return markdown and you are done.
- If “Weekly Thing.«Current Issue».Fortune” does not exist present random Fortunes to user until one is selected.
- Once Fortune is selected, store it at “Weekly Thing.«Current Issue».Fortune” and return markdown.
By using this approach I can run this anytime I want to get that section final, and when I build it at publishing time it will not require any input from me. This makes things very durable as well since I can re-run the automation easily.
One of the takeaways I hope you have from reading this is that while Shortcuts seem pretty trivial, you can assemble them in interesting way with additional software to create very powerful solutions. Especially with add-ons like Data Jar and S3 Files you can do some incredible stuff.
I also think this is a good example of how you can apply automation to personal workflows. I try to use as much automation as possible to remove mundane components from my week. It is worth investing the time in Shortcuts or similar tools to see where you might personally benefit.
Just ordered 108 additional candle vessels, more wax, and scents to fill out inventory so we can start making candles for the 2023 Things 4 Good Candle Sale! Plan is to make 203 wooden wick candles to raise money for good causes. Sale will be Nov 4th and 5th!
I've been gradually reducing my daily coffee from 24oz (4 cups) to 18oz (3 cups) and this morning starts 12 oz (2 cups). I'm trying to see if cutting caffeine in half has a positive impact on blood pressure and sleep.
Seems like $4 billion is the minimum cost to Amazon for missing the LLM wave.
Amazon will invest up to $4bn in Anthropic, an American AI startup founded by former employees of OpenAI, who have built a chatbotcalled Claude. Amazon will acquire a minority stake in the company, which was valued at $5bn earlier this year, to better compete in generative AI. Anthropic will work closely with Amazon Web Services, the tech giant’s cloud-computing arm. -- Economist Espresso, Sep 25, 2023
I just realized that one of our iMacs (Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2017) isn’t able to upgrade to macOS Sonoma! I’ve been debating if it is time to update it as well as the other iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2019). Seems like it is time to put these Intel iMacs to pasture.
I’ve had the ScanSnap iX500 for years and the scanner is great but the software gets worse by the day. The “Scan to the Cloud” feature fails silently! You can be scanning away thinking it’s all going to my Box account to retrieve later, but in reality the scans are going nowhere, no error message, and no file to recover!
Huge thank you to Dee Thibodeau, Nick Hernandez, Ahmed Jamil for hosting the Fall CIO Wine Tasting! And thanks to Tony Peleska for hosting on their amazing patio! Lastly, Chuck Kanski of Solo Vino was an amazing guide through delightful wines.
Weekly Thing Forum 🆕
Join Mike Frost, Barry Hess, David O'Hara, Shawn Liu, and many other Weekly Thing readers in the Weekly Thing Forum. Recent topics include:
- 261 / Bloomfield Bridge, Critical Ignoring, Subscription Era
- How I Build the Weekly Thing
- 262 / Simulator, System, Snoopy
- Introducing Weekly Thing Forum
AWS is starting to charge for IPv4 addresses, presumably because of the fairly finite supply of them. At some point IPv6 will need to be the default in major cloud providers as their scale will outstrip IPv4 address space. This article highlights where AWS is ready for that, and where they are very much not ready. → AWS: Cannot Escape IPv4
Not just a Norse God. "Odin is a general-purpose programming language with distinct typing built for high performance, modern systems and data-oriented programming." So many niche languages. → Odin Programming Language
Collection of examples for building on the OpenAI API. → OpenAI Cookbook
A long, long time ago, before blogs commonly had comments, they would often have a Guest Book. Some page on the site that the author could put emails they got, or if it was really fancy the visitor could add to the guest book using a form. I love Good Enough's Guestbook populated with drawings from their Internet Printer. 💙 → A Good Enough Guestbook
Hansson was intrigued by the same section in the Musk Biography that caught my eye and commented about in Weekly Thing 261. He elaborates further on it from the book, which I have not read yet. → The Musk Algorithm
Boyd reflecting on re-reading Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and reflecting on the role of screens in it, and in society today. → The Screens are the Symptom | danah boyd
I've long assume robots.txt is ignored by most robots. Moreale's experiment is good proof of that. If you really want to blog robots, you'll need to do it on the HTTP server and it is going to be a big pain. → Bots, Spiders, and Crawlers: The Results – Manu
Always on the lookout for even better pancakes! 🥞 → The World’s Best Pancake Recipe
Here is your fortune…
Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals.
Thank you for subscribing to the Weekly Thing!
- Weekly Thing 262 / Simulator, System, Snoopy
- Weekly Thing 261 / Bloomfield Bridge, Critical Ignoring, Subscription Era
- Weekly Thing #260 / Rash, Hashing, Arguably
- Weekly Thing #259 / Vision Pro, Tiny Awards, Mental Liquidity
- Weekly Thing #258 / Vision, Strike, Reputation
I’m a focused practitioner of the Getting Things Done methodology and am focused on it as a lifelong skill to continually improve my productivity but even more important to give me the mental space and clarity to focus on what I want to focus on at any time.
My opinions are my own and not those of any affiliates. The content is non-malicious and ad-free, posted at my discretion. Source attribution is omitted due to potential errors. Your privacy is respected; no tracking is in place.